4 from Pell City set to continue athletic journeys at next level

Four headed to college

PELL CITY -- Four Pell City senior athletes made their future destinations known during a signing ceremony at the school’s Center for Education and Performing Arts on Monday afternoon.

Center fielder Clayton Hildebrant signed to play baseball for Division I Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), while his teammate, pitcher and utility player Drew Wilson, chose Central Alabama Community College. Offensive guard John David Freeman selected Huntingdon College (Montgomery), and softball pitcher Kelsey Watson inked an offer from Central Alabama Community College.

“I had interest in a few other schools, but ultimately, I decided on MTSU because of the coaching staff,” Hildebrant said. “It’s just a great group of guys and we just really clicked from the start … I was just looking for the right fit for me, and MTSU fit what I was looking for.”

Pell City baseball coach Andrew Tarver said he was proud of Hildebrant getting a chance at a Division I school.

“That was Clayton’s goal as a freshman was to move on to a Division I college,” Tarver said. “He’s worked really hard to get to where he’s gotten now. He works hard all summer. He works hard in the fall. He works out and has never missed a practice. Never done anything wrong to get in trouble. He’s almost a perfect kid.”

Hildebrant said he will study sports management during his time as a Blue Raider.

“After my baseball career is over, however far it takes me, I would like to stay in a management position one day,” he said.

Wilson said he had offers from Lawson State Community College (Birmingham) and Snead State Community College (Boaz), but he chose CACC because he bonded with head baseball coach Larry Thomas.

“We’re close and we have the same goals,” Wilson said.

Tarver said CACC is getting a strong competitor in Wilson.

“He does not like to get embarrassed,” Tarver said. “He does not like to fail, and he fails very little. When he does, he comes back, overcomes that and moves on to the next step of what he’s got to take care of. He can hit. He can pitch. He can play first, third and short. They’re getting a really good athlete.”

Wilson said he’ll miss playing baseball with his best friends the most when he leaves Pell City for college.

“We’ve played since we were eight years old all the way up,” he said. “It was really fun. That’s what I’ll miss the most.”

Watson said CACC was her only offer to play at the next level.

“It seemed like a really good environment, plus my pitching coach (Leslie Pickette) went there before me,” Watson said. “She’s taught me everything I know.”

She added she plans to work on her general courses and transfer to Auburn to study physical therapy.

Lady Panthers softball coach Terry Isbell said CACC is getting a good person as well as a good athlete.

“That’s the most important thing,” he said. “All the athletic stuff is good, but we try to measure our people in what kind of people they are. I’m very thankful for her. They (CACC) are getting a great kid and she’ll come down there ready to play.”

Freeman said he had an offer from Culver-Stockton College (Canton, Missouri), but he opted for the option just down the road.

“Huntingdon was just close to home,” he said. “It felt more like home than Culver-Stockton did. I really liked the coaches and the atmosphere there.”

Pell City head football coach Wayne Lee said Huntingdon is getting a “good one” in Freeman. 

“They’re getting a hard-nosed kid that absolutely loves the game of football, and they’re getting a great student,” Lee said. “He’s got about a 4.5 (grade-point average) … I think he’ll be a good fit for them.” 

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